I make no apologies about it — I’m a gamer. As in, someone who spends a great portion of their time playing and/or swearing at various video games in multiple mediums.
And as a gamer, there’s one news story I see often that never seems to want to die.
I’m talking about the classic, “Did Video Games Breed a Killer?!” news story. They’ve been kicked around popular media outlets constantly, and just recently CNN ran an opinion piece on Anders Behring Breivik, titled “Does the Internet breed killers?”
If you don’t remember Breivik, he is the maniac who massacred children on a rampage last summer in Norway. The game he played? “World of Warcraft.”
I could understand if people linked “Call of Duty” or another first-person shooter game to his killings — one that features guns.
But WoW? It’s a colorful adventure through a massive world with a bunch of other people. You kill a variety of things in it, sure, but most of them aren’t real. And by “real,” I mean on the golem/goblin level of not real.
As a reformed WoW addict, I can assure that the worst thing to ever happen as a result of playing the game is a loss of a social life and occasionally forgetting to eat.
Why does this keep happening? It’s not as though video games are still a small niche market. Gaming used to be the exclusive property of nerds and neckbeards who “lived in their mother’s basement,” but when grandmas are buying over 70 million copies of “Wii Sports,” that image is hard to maintain.
So what’s the deal? I feel like it is only a matter of time until there is a legislative effort against video games similar to the past efforts against heavy metal, a la Tipper Gore.
I can hear the outcry already: “Look at how violent this video game is, I found my 7-year-old son playing this, how could you let this happen?” As if a parent’s own failure to do any research at all and hand a mature-rated game to their kids is the industry’s fault.
If the kid asked for a random magazine you’d never heard of titled “Hot Models Monthly,” would you blindly buy it or maybe at least take a glance at the content?
For any potential or current parents out there who know nothing about video games, here’s a bit of a hint: There are ratings on video games, from E for everyone to AO for adults only. They all have age recommendations. Those are not there for fun.
If you see a game and the box art depicts an angry man holding a weapon and a large array of dead things surrounding him, chances are your impressionable child shouldn’t be playing it.
The label of “gamer” is starting to have its outlines blurred anyway. When you see a high-powered businessman swearing at “Angry Birds” on his iPhone next to an 8-year-old swearing at “Pokémon” on his Nintendo DS, you have to wonder why one is justifiable and one is childish. Facebook has brought a whole cadre of video games to the masses, as anyone who has been spammed by Farmville posts can sympathize with.
Perhaps one day, when everyone in the world has had access to some form of video game or another and the editors of newspapers have actually played a few themselves, maybe this silly story about the Internet breeding killers will finally die off.
Until that day, all gamers will just have to put up with the inevitable onslaught of accusations every time a man playing “Plants vs. Zombies” goes on a rampage.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to play my video games. And all the while I will purposefully continue to not go on a rampage.
Chris Chase is a fourth-year English and journalism student. He is the State Editor for The Maine Campus.